New Clifton Cultural Arts Center welcomes summer with full slate of arts programming

New buildings rise up from their foundations to become concrete manifestations of a dreamed plan every day. It’s such a common occurrence that we seldom stop to think: How did that come to be? But “how to make a building happen” has been nonstop on the mind of one Cincinnati woman for years. This past March, the brand new Clifton Cultural Arts Center opened its doors (and walls) to the public, led by the tireless efforts of its executive director, Leslie Mooney.

Largely, what it took to get to the grand opening was a groundswell of community support and lots of money - to the tune of $10.5 million. But it wasn’t all funded by one or even a few behemoth benefactors. “I think the most surprising thing about fundraising was how much we were able to raise with many, many small donations and a very-mixed capital stack,” says Mooney. “We took advantage of the federal new markets tax program, had both state and city funding, and many, many smaller donations (no single gift over $500,000) from very generous individuals and foundations.”

At the time the organization began working toward their goal, they had only three full-time staff (now doubled to six) and an operational budget less than $500,000. “We really punched above our weight in the fundraising,” shares Mooney. “People really stepped up to make the dream a reality. With that broad community support, we’ve been able to raise over $10 million and have just about $500,000 left to go.”

Cincinnati Regional Chamber Leadership Cincinnati class 47 taking in the south and west views from the CCAC rooftop.

A space for everyone
The finished building is a love letter to the Clifton neighborhood and to the arts. It’s a fluid space that invites visitors in and up, first to feast on the visual wonders featured in its free galleries, then to get hands-on experience in its inclusive maker spaces and finally to enjoy fresh air and a new vantage point from the rooftop.

“It has been an absolute joy to see the galleries full for art openings, the classrooms buzzing with activity, the theater used for large gatherings — all being utilized by the community as we designed it!” enthuses Mooney.

Ready to see the space for yourself? Come on in, says Mooney. “Dropping in to see the space and see what we’re offering is a great, no-barrier way to engage with CCAC. Our galleries are always free to visit and are open six days a week.”

The summer schedule is packed with unique events and classes
“We’re excited to have more groups using our rooftop this summer. We are offering both sunrise and sunset yoga classes that will take place on the roof. Summer campers will also be able to take projects up to the roof, and we have several private events booked,” says Mooney.

Additionally, much of the CCAC’s standard programming will be in play this summer. “We’re bringing back free, live music performances to the Burnet Woods Bandstand every Wednesday from 7-9:00pm starting June 5,” Mooney says. Saturdays in the Park at Inwood Park will also be back for a second season, with live music at the pavilion there from 10:00am-noon.

“I love the summer concert series because it brings people together through the shared experience of art, food and community-building like nothing else,” says Mooney. Visit their site to browse the full schedule of arts education, events and exhibit offerings.

Got kids? The CCAC has arts camps for kids in grades K-12. “Our summer camps are about 70% full at this point, so there’s still some room left for last-minute planners,” says Mooney. And if not this year, then be sure to keep the CCAC in mind for next summer. Costs range from around $210-$285 for a 5-day camp that runs from 9am-3:00pm each day, with before and after care available for an additional fee.

You can also rent out different areas within the CCAC (including the rooftop!) for many different types of events, from weddings to corporate meetings. The event staff offers planning services, including catering.

Clifton Cultural Arts Center is located at 3412 Clifton Ave. and open Monday-Saturday. Hours vary; check their website for times.
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Jessica Bozsan is a writer, content marketer and overall passionate communicator who lives in Ft. Thomas, KY, with her hectic family of five. She’s also a reader of novels, a yogi, a walker and a hiker. Additionally, she loves to knit, sew, draw, make jewelry and throw pottery on the wheel.